Freedom and the rescue of the Chilean miners

The ongoing rescue of the miners in Chile may well go down in history as one of the most amazing events of our time.

Here in a short video clip (above), two members of the Wall Street Journal's Editorial Page, Deputy Editor Daniel Heninnger and "The Americas" columnist Mary Anastasia O'Grady, explain some very important lessons from this moving rescue.

They make the point that the technology that made the rescue possible came from far-flung businesses specializing in very niche equipment, and that only capitalism enables such innovation and only capitalism can effectively bring such diverse resources to bear on solving difficult problems.

The great advocate of capitalism and freedom, Milt Friedman, explained this lesson in his famous lecture on the pencil (see here for a short 2-minute video of Milt Friedman explaining it as only he can; note also that he thinks the graphite probably came "from some mines in South America").

The Journal writers also point out the difference in the Chilean response, welcoming the technology from firms based in other countries, to the rebuff the US gave after the gulf oil spill to ships from other countries, based on anti-market laws on the books for decades (as we discussed here).

We would also draw a parallel between the role of capitalism in the ability to rescue miners lost for weeks, half a mile below the surface of the earth, and the role of capitalism in the ability to put a man on the moon back in 1969. As we discussed on the fortieth anniversary of that momentous event, "during the 1960s, the space program was very much seen by the entire world as a contest between two nations with very different views about the best way to allocate limited resources."

It is valuable to think about the contrast between free-market capitalism and anti-market protectionism, because that battle is still going on today. The dramatic rescue of the Chilean miners underscores the fact that capitalism really promotes life and freedom, or, as Milt Friedman said so long ago: "That is why the operation of the free market is so essential -- not only to promote productive efficiency, but also to foster harmony and peace among the peoples of the world."

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For later posts on this same topic, see also: